The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.
TOP OF THE HOUR:
– Finnish police and military enforce blockade of key southern region
– Albania introduces permit amid stricter measures
– Stranded tourists flown to safety from Mount Everest
– Germany won’t loosen restrictions on public life before April 20
HELSINKI – Finnish police and assisting military forces and border guard officials have started to enforce a blockade of a key southern region that includes the Nordic nation’s capital, Helsinki.
The exceptional order by Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s government to block the movement of citizens into and out of the Uusimaa entered into force on Saturday.
The region is home to some 1.7 million people including Helsinki’s 650,000 residents.
Police have set up road blocks to main entry and exit points in Uusimaa and are checking each arriving or departing vehicle for a legitimate reason for movement. Finnish conscript soldiers are patrolling on local trains for possible regulation dodgers.
TIRANA, Albania – The Albanian government has announced that people will have to apply for a permit to go out for necessities following stricter measures to contain the virus outbreak.
Prime Minister Edi Rama says people can apply online via e-albania.al or with a text message. Only one person per family may go out.
The only shops open are those selling food, medicine and other basic items and people may only go out between 5 a.m. and 1 p.m. from Monday to Saturday.
No movement or business activity will be allowed from Saturday at 1 p.m. to Monday at 5 a.m., with police and military forces patrolling the streets.
Albania has reported 186 cases of the new coronavirus with 10 deaths.
KATHMANDU, Nepal – Scores of tourists on the foothills of Mount Everest have been flown to safety days after being stranded on the only airstrip serving the worldâ€™s highest mountain.
Dhurba Shrestha, an official at the Tenzing Hillary Airport in Lukla, says that 174 foreign tourists and four Nepali nationals left the mountain by air on Saturday in 12 small planes and two helicopters.
The airport at Lukla, located at an altitude of 2,800 meters (9,184 feet), is the only airport in the Mount Everest region.
Foreign embassies and local travel agents have been urging Nepal’s government to allow these rescue flights to the Everest region since the country imposed a lockdown last week.
Nepalâ€™s government has halted all flights and ground transportation, shutting down offices and shuttering businesses to control the spread of the coronavirus. Nepal has four confirmed cases including one person who has recovered.
ISLAMABAD – The foreign ministry says China is sending a plane containing medical personnel and supplies to aid Pakistan in the fight to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Pakistan is a key link in China’s ambitious multi-billion dollar, one-road project linking South and Central Asia to China.
China is also a key military supplier for Pakistan, having supplied the country with missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
Pakistan currently has 1,321 confirmed cases, 10 deaths and 23 patients who have recovered. Most of the infected people returned from Iran where the confirmed cases are more than 30,000 with more than 2,300 deaths.
BERLIN – Chancellor Angela Merkelâ€™s chief of staff says Germany wonâ€™t loosen its restrictions on public life before April 20.
German authorities closed non-essential shops and banned gatherings of more than two people in public at the beginning of the week. Schools, bars, restaurants and clubs are also closed.
Merkelâ€™s chief of staff, Helge Braun, told Saturdayâ€™s edition of the daily Tagesspiegel that â€œwe are not going to talk about any easing before April 20 â€“ until then, all measures will remain in place.â€ He said that officials will say â€œin a timely manner before thenâ€ what will happen after that date.
Braun said that â€œthe older and the sick will have to reduce their contacts for significantly longer.â€
Germany has recorded more than 50,000 cases of the new coronavirus, according to a tally by John Hopkins University, with 351 deaths – a lower death rate than in many other countries.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka police say they have arrested thousands, including many who were praying in a mosque, for violating a countrywide curfew imposed as a part of stringent measures designed to contain the spread of coronavirus.
The number of positive cases has risen to 106 and the government has ordered police to strictly impose the curfew to ensure social distancing across the country.
On a tip that a group of people were praying in a mosque in the town of Horowpathana, about 124 miles (200 kilometers) north of Capital Colombo, police and health officials went to the mosque and arrested 18 while several dozens have fled.
The government has banned nonessential travel. Police have arrested 4,600 and seized 1,125 vehicles for violating curfew since March 20.
UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations says 86 staff members around the world have reported cases of COVID-19.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said most of the infected staff members are in Europe, but there are also staffers in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the United States that have the coronavirus.
To try to reduce transmission, he said the vast majority of U.N. staffers are working from home.
At U.N. headquarters in New York, where a normal day would see staffersâ€™ passes swiped 11,000 times, the number of swipes Friday morning stood at 140, Dujarric said.
In Geneva, he said, the number of staff at the U.N. office has dropped from around 4,000 people on a regular day to just about 70 on Thursday. In Vienna, more than 97% of U.N. staff are now working remotely, he said. And, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 99% of staff are working from home.
UNITED NATIONS – The 191 parties to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty have decided to postpone a conference to review its implementation because of the coronavirus pandemic, the United Nations said Friday.
The treaty is considered the cornerstone of global efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and the parties hold a major conference every five years to discuss how it is working. The meeting had been scheduled for April 27-May 22 at U.N. headquarters in New York.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the review conference will be held â€œas soon as the circumstances permit, but no later than April 2021.â€
The U.N. said earlier this week that the conference was likely to be postponed, but the conference president-designate, Ambassador Gustavo Zlauvinen of Argentina, wanted to consult governments that are parties to the treaty.
The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which reached its 50th anniversary March 5, is credited with preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to dozens of nations. It has succeeded in doing this via a grand global bargain: Nations without nuclear weapons committed not to acquire them; those with them committed to move toward their elimination; and all endorsed everyoneâ€™s right to develop peaceful nuclear energy.